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Menhaden, also known as mossbunker, bunker, and pogy, are forage fish of the genera Brevoortia and Ethmidium, two genera of marine fish in the family Clupeidae. Menhaden is a blend of poghaden (pogy for short) and an Algonquian word akin to Narragansett munnawhatteaûg, derived from munnohquohteau ‘he fertilizes’, referring to the fish's use as fertilizer. It is generally thought that Pilgrims were advised by Tisquantum (also known as Squanto) to plant menhaden with their crops.
Menhaden are flat, have soft flesh, and a deeply forked tail. They rarely exceed 15 inches (38 cm) in length, and have a varied weight range. Gulf menhaden and Atlantic menhaden are small oily-fleshed fish, bright silver and characterized by a series of smaller spots behind the main, Humeral spot. They tend to have larger scales than Yellowfin menhaden and Finescale menhaden. In addition, Yellowfin menhaden tail rays are a bright yellow in contrast to those of the Atlantic menhaden.
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Recent taxonomic work using DNA comparisons have organized the North American menhadens into large-scaled (Gulf and Atlantic menhaden) and small-scaled (Finescale and Yellowfin menhaden) designations.
The menhaden consist of two genera and seven species:
- Genus Brevoortia T. N. Gill, 1861
- Brevoortia aurea (Spix & Agassiz, 1829) (Brazilian menhaden);
- Brevoortia gunteri Hildebrand, 1948 (Finescale menhaden);
- Brevoortia patronus Goode, 1878 (Gulf menhaden);
- Brevoortia pectinata (Jenyns, 1842) (Argentine menhaden);
- Brevoortia smithi Hildebrand, 1941 (Yellowfin menhaden);
- Brevoortia tyrannus (Latrobe, 1802) (Atlantic menhaden).
- Genus Ethmidium W. F. Thompson, 1916
- Finescale menhaden from the Yucatán to Louisiana.
- Yellowfin menhaden from Louisiana to Virginia.
- Gulf menhaden range from the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico to Tampa Bay, Florida.
- Atlantic menhaden ranges from Jupiter Inlet, Florida, to Nova Scotia. Atlantic menhaden seasonally migrate along the coast. In June mature adults are typically in the northern portion of the coastline with sub-adults and juveniles located in the southern portion.
- The various species of menhaden occur anywhere from estuarine waters outwards to the continental shelf. Menhaden grow in less saline waters of estuaries and can be found in bays, lagoons, as well as river mouths. Adults appear to prefer water temperatures near 18 °C.
Atlantic menhaden can spawn year round in inshore waters off the Atlantic coast, with the highest spawning rates near North Carolina in the late fall. The eggs hatch in the open ocean and the larvae drift to sheltered estuaries via ocean currents. The young spend a year developing in these estuaries before returning to the open ocean. At this early stage, they are commonly known as "peanut bunker". The Atlantic menhaden usually do not become sexually mature until the end of their second year, after which they reproduce until death. A young, sexually mature female can produce roughly 38,000 eggs, while a fully mature female can produce upwards of 362,000.
Eggs are buoyant and hatch within 2 to 3 days depending on the temperature. The larvae will spend 1 to 3 months in waters over the continental shelf. The Chesapeake Bay is a popular nursery for juvenile menhaden. Larval fish will enter the Bay in late winter and early summer. The larval fish will move into lower salinity waters in estuarine tributaries while juvenile and immature fish remain in the Bay until the fall.
Menhaden are omnivorous filter feeders, feeding by straining food particles from water. They travel in large, slow-moving, and tightly packed schools with open mouths. Filter feeders typically take into their open mouths "materials in the same proportions as they occur in ambient waters". Menhaden have two main sources of food: phytoplankton and zooplankton. A menhaden’s diet varies considerably over the course of its lifetime, and is directly related to its size. The smallest menhaden, typically those under one year old, eat primarily phytoplankton. After that age, adult menhaden gradually shift to a diet comprised almost exclusively of zooplankton.
- Animal Feed Additive
- Food Fortification
- Fish Oil Supplements
According to James Kirkley of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), there are two established commercial fisheries for menhaden. The first is known as a reduction fishery. According to the Omega Protein Corporation, this fishery's output produces omega-3 oils for human consumption, and for aquaculture, swine, and other livestock feeds. The second is known as a bait fishery, which harvests menhaden for the use of both commercial and recreational fishermen. Commercial fishermen, especially crabbers in the Chesapeake Bay area, use menhaden to bait their traps or hooks. The recreational fisherman use ground menhaden chum as a fish attractant, and whole fish as bait. The total harvest is approximately 500 million fish per year. Atlantic menhaden are harvested using purse seines.
Menhaden were prized in America for their delicate but rich flavors in the mid-18th century. Mark Catesby (1682–1749), an English naturalist, wrote of the menhaden as an "excellent Sweet Fish, and so excessive fat that butter is never used in frying or any other preparation of them....[menhaden were] much esteemed by the Inhabitants for their delicacy." Colonel William Byrd II, the founder of Richmond, Virginia, commended menhaden as food fit for a gourmet writing of the menhaden as a "small, but splendid fish when it is baked." Over a century later George Brown Goode (1851–1896) praised the menhaden for its flavor, saying it is "superior in flavor to most of the common shore-fishes," and notes that menhaden sold at a "price nearly as high as that of striped bass, the favorite fish in Washington."
Presently, menhaden are an important input for fishmeal and fish oil, with both of these "reduction" products being used as feed for livestock and aquaculture, such as salmon, shrimp, tilapia, catfish. Fish oil made from menhaden is also used as a dietary supplement, and as a raw material for products such as lipstick. Atlantic menhaden are an important link between plankton and upper level predators. Because of their filter feeding abilities, "menhaden consume and redistribute a significant amount of energy within and between Chesapeake Bay and other estuaries, and the coastal ocean." Because they play this role, and their abundance, menhaden are an invaluable prey species for many predatory fish, such as striped bass, bluefish, mackerel, flounder, tuna, Drum (fish), and sharks. They are also a very important food source for many birds, including egrets, ospreys, seagulls, northern gannets, pelicans, and herons.
Two companies harvest menhaden in the United States:
- Omega Protein Inc., Houston, Texas, with operations in Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama which takes 90% of the national total; and
- Daybrook Fisheries, Empire, Louisiana.
- Richard Conniff. "The Oiliest Catch". Conservation Magazine. Retrieved 2013-01-18.
- Anderson, Joel (2007). "Systematics of the North American menhadens: molecular evolutionary reconstructions in the genus Brevoortia (Clupeiformes: Clupeidae)". Fishery Bulletin 105 (3): 368–378. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
- "引越し完全マニュアル" (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 30 January 2009
- Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission 2002
- Friedland, Kevin; Gobler, Christopher; Lynch, Patrick, “Time Series Mesoscale Response of Atlantic Menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus to Variation in Plankton Abundances,” Journal of Coastal Research, February 11, 2011
- Based on data sourced from the relevant FAO Species Fact Sheets
- "Omega Protein (home page)". Omega Protein
- Greenberg, Paul (15 December 2009). "A Fish Oil Story". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
archive via Archive.org not available due to login requirement; login not required to view content via provided link.
- "Maryland Department of Natural Resources". Dnr.state.md.us. 2012-12-31. Retrieved 2013-01-07.
- "Brevoortia". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 6 June 2006.
- Pauly, Daniel (2007-11-02). "Fisheries: Tales of a small, but crucial, fish". Science 318 (5851): 750–751. doi:10.1126/science.1147800.
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- Atlantic Menhaden Harvest. (n.d.). Retrieved 20 April 2008, from Chesapeake Bay Program: http://www.chesapeakebay.net/atlanticmenhadenmanagement.aspx?menuitem=15378
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- Kirkley, J. E. (2006). The Economic Importance and Value of Menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay Region. Gloucester Point, VA.
- Management: Conflict and Competition. (n.d.). Retrieved 20 April 2008, from Menhaden Resource Council: http://www.menhaden.org/management_conflict.htm
- Maryland Fish Facts: Atlantic Menhaden. (2007, 5 April). Retrieved 20 April 2008, from Maryland Department of Natural Resources: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/fishfacts/menhaden.asp
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- Save the Stripers: Menhaden Update. (n.d.). Retrieved 20 April 2008, from National Coalition for Marine Conservation: http://www.savethefish.org/action_items_striped_bass_EAN8.htm
- Southwick Associates, Inc. (2006). Menhaden Math The Economic Impact of Atlantic Menhaden on Virginia’s Recreationa land Commercial Fisheries. Retrieved 20 April 2008, from National Coalition for Marine Conservation: http://www.savethefish.org/PDF_files/Menhaden_Math_report.pdf
- Virginia Institute of Marine Science (2009). Several menhaden research projects, currently unpublished.
- Durbin, A. G. and E. G. Durbin. 1998. Effects of Menhaden Predation on Plankton Populations in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island Author. . Estuaries, Vol. 21, No. 3, (Sep., 1998), pp. 449–465.
- Smith, N. G. and C. M. Jones. 2007; What is the cause of menhaden recruitment failure? Quantifying the role of striped bass. Final Rept. Virg. Mar. Resou. Comm. Project #RF 05-01.
- Lynch, P. D. 2007. Feeding ecology of the Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) in Chesapeake Bay. Master’s Thesis. The College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Gloucester Point, Virginia.
- Friedland KD, Ahrenholz DW, Smith JW, Manning M, Ryan J. 2006. Sieving functional morphology of the gill raker feeding apparatus of Atlantic menhaden. J. Exp. Zool. 305A:974–985.
- Saving Striped Bass by Managing Menhaden | KeepAmericaFishing™
- ASMFC. 2006. 2006 Stock Assessment Report for Atlantic Menhaden. Atlantic States Marine
Fisheries Commission. Available: http://www.asmfc.org/speciesDocuments/menhaden/reports/stockAssessments/2006StockAsses smentReport.pdf
- NOAA Fisheries | NMFS
- Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission | ASMFC
- Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission| GSMFC